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2014: "To Show Kindness to Israel"
The Blackstone Memorial
The montage above of the founders of the Chicago
Hebrew Mission (1887) illustrates Blackstone's central place in the
organization. He is in the oval right center, wearing glasses. The montage
is from the pamphlet, Twenty-Five Years of Blessing
in 1913. From Collection
, Box 1, Folder 1
Eugene Blackstone (1841-1935) was an American businessman, evangelist
and author. He was involved in many ministries, particularly sharing
the Christian Gospel with the Jewish people, in the United States
and elsewhere. Among other organizations, he played a key role in
the founding of the Chicago
Hebrew Mission. (Charles Blanchard, president of Wheaton College,
was also president of the CHM from 1913-1925.)
Blackstone's fervent dispensational belief in the imminent Second
Coming of Jesus Christ caused him to become interested in the plight
of the Jewish people in many countries around the world, particularly
Czarist Russia. He played a key part in organizing meetings of American
civic and religious leaders to examine the problem. He then became
one of the first American evangelicals to support a national homeland
for the Jewish people in Palestine, then under Turkish rule.
In 1891 Blackstone was the key figure in creating the petition sometimes
called "Palestine for the Jews" but better known as The
Blackstone Memorial. The petition mentioned briefly the current persecution
of the Jews in Russia, where recent decrees ordered their expulsion.
It then outlined humanitarian arguments for the United States to use
its influence to create a new Israel in Palestine. As Blackstone wrote
in the Memorial, "We believe this is an appropriate time
for all nations, and especially the Christian Nations of Europe, to
show kindness to Israel. A million exiles, by their terrible suffering,
are appealing to our sympathy, justice and humanity. Let us restore
them to the land of which they were so cruelly despoiled by our Roman
Blackstone was able to have the Memorial signed by a hundreds of
religious (Christian and Jewish), civic, business, and political leaders,
including John D. Rockefeller Sr., Speaker of the House Thomas Reed,
Charles Blanchard, Cyrus McCormick, D. L. Moody, and J. Pierpont Morgan.
The petition was personally presented by Blackstone to President Benjamin
Harrison in March 1891. It was received politely, but there was no
other official response. However, it might have influenced the protests
that the American government made to Russia about the expulsion decrees
and this was one of the factors resulting in these edicts being withdrawn.
The Memorial got a great deal of publicity, particularly in the United
States and sparked much debate among both Christians and Jews about
the possibility and desirability of a Jewish homeland.
Blackstone continued to attempt to influence American public and government
opinion in favor of the creation of a Jewish nation in Palestine.
He sent copies of the Memorial to Presidents Grove Cleveland, Theodore
Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and he continued to gather signatures
indicating wide support among leaders of public opinion. His unofficial
presentation of an updated version of the Memorial to Woodrow Wilson
in May 1916 was possibly one of the influences on Wilson's favorable
response to the Balfour
Declaration, which was a statement of the British government supporting
the idea of a Jewish homeland.
The BGC Archives' Collection
540 contains a small gathering of Blackstone's papers, including
copies of the memorial and correspondence about it, Below are links
to carbon copies of the 1891 and 1916 versions of the memorials (each
with lists of the people who signed), as well as a few supporting letters
and other documents.
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